EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. — The way receiver Charles Johnson caught on down the stretch in 2014 encouraged the Vikings.
Being healthy and able to participate in the team's voluntary offseason workout program could be an even bigger boost.
Johnson caught 25 of his 31 passes last season for 415 of his 475 receiving yards in the final seven games, averaging 16.6 yards per catch and developing chemistry with quarterback Teddy Bridgewater on multiple types of routes.
That production came after the Vikings signed him Sept. 20 off Cleveland's practice squad. It also rewarded Johnson's extensive rehab and recovery from a torn ACL that was first diagnosed as an MCL injury when Johnson was with Green Bay, the team that drafted him in the seventh round in 2013. Johnson also dealt with hamstring issues in his early days with the Packers out of Division II Grand Valley State.
"It's been awesome to have an offseason and not be rehabbing a knee and being able to practice with the guys and get better and stronger and work on things I need to work on," Johnson said. "It's way better than last season. I feel better and I'm just excited for this season to come."
Johnson has shown crisp route running, solid hands and an aggressiveness to high point a football in non-contact coverage during the Vikings organized team activity practices that started last week and reached their midpoint Wednesday.
Vikings Offensive Coordinator Norv Turner and quarterbacks coach Scott Turner knew of Johnson's potential from working in Cleveland in 2013, and Norv Turner has expressed his satisfaction with the way Johnson developed last season.
Minnesota added more speed to the position this offseason when it traded for Mike Wallace and drafted Stefon Diggs in the fifth round, to join returning receivers Cordarrelle Patterson, Jarius Wright and Adam Thielen. The offense also got more than a nudge this week with the return of Adrian Peterson, whose locker is next to Johnson's. They met for the first time Tuesday when teammates welcomed back the running back.
"We just got 2-8 back in the backfield, and we already had Jerick (McKinnon) and (Matt) Asiata and (Joe) Banyard, four good running backs right there that's going to be hard to stop," Johnson said. "For us at receiver, we've got some real good speed out there. Every one of our receivers is fast, and I think we've got some talent out there. The o-line is coming along well and working hard. Our fullbacks are working hard, and Teddy is improving every day. Offensively, I like what we've got and think it's going to be exciting."
GRADING LINE CHANGE: One of the most notable storylines so far this offseason is the potential move of Brandon Fusco from right guard to left guard and the placement of rookie T.J. Clemmings at right guard. Fusco explained his developing of chemistry with left tackle Matt Kalil last week and will also adjust to playing on the other side of John Sullivan, who signed a contract extension in April.
Sullivan said the transition of a new player to his left and right is "going great so far."
"Obviously there are growing pains throughout OTAs for everybody, even the veterans are knocking some of the rust off, but both those guys are embracing those spots," Sullivan said. "T.J. is working really hard. He's definitely got further to go than Brandon does, being a rookie and not having that much experience on the offensive line, but he's got great work ethic and all the ability in the world. Brandon, that transition is going to be pretty seamless, I think. He's doing a great job already, some awkward moments with footwork but is getting all that worked out."
GOOD DAY TO BE INDOORS: Rain led the Vikings to practice indoors on Wednesday, marking the first inside session of 2015. It also rained on the team's first OTA practice, but Head Coach Mike Zimmer opted to hold that one outdoors. When the rain included lightning, Vikings players coaches and administration shifted initial plans from participating in the team's 10th annual Playground Build to visiting Falcon Heights Elementary School. (Click here for practice highlights and watch a video from the school visit here). The playground was completed after the storms thanks to a day's efforts of more than 200 workers from Toro, KaBOOM!, the Vikings and community volunteers.